Since November of 2011, Jay Patterson and Jamie Jacobs have been interviewing St. John’s parishioners who have lived through World War II, videotaping their stories and preserving their memories. On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2012, St. John’s hosted a parish-wide viewing of the interview highlights in order to honor “the greatest generation” and give thanks for their sacrificial service to our country. Prior to the event, the VOICE sat down with Jay and Jamie to hear about how the interview project came together.
WHO WAS THE MASTERMIND OF THIS PROJECT?
JAY: I got the idea in the beginning. And do you know what prompted it? The obituary of Harry McCaffrey. I hadn’t a clue that he was a war hero: three Purple Hearts, five Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars. And it was too late for me to say anything to him. I thought to myself, “I don’t want that to happen again,” so I got the idea and put the word out. Mark Kraemer volunteered to help, Jamie volunteered to help. Craig Schmieder and John Bovard have helped, as well.
JAMIE, HOW DID YOU, PARTICULARLY, GET INVOLVED?
JAMIE: I saw Jay’s notice in the eVOICE. He wrote about this interviewing project that was about to begin. I’ve always enjoyed video work; I’ve done it for years, now. So I contacted Jay and said, “Hey, do you need some help?” And he said, “Absolutely. Can you run a camera? The first interview is in two weeks.”
ARE YOU SAYING THAT JAY HAD THE INSPIRATION BUT WAS OTHERWISE IGNORANT ABOUT HOW TO RECORD THESE INTERVIEWS?
JAMIE: That’s your word not mine!
JAY: I could have done it alone, and what we would have had was one parked video camera, and a talking head for the interview. But what we’ve wound up with are these wonderful DVD’s with historic photographs, graphics added, different camera shots of the interview. It’s like a 60 Minutes interview. it’s not boring. Jamie made a world of difference, and he gets credit for the editing. He does all of that. The easy part is mine and the hard part is his.
EVERYONE WHO HAS SEEN THE DVDS COMMENTS ON THE GRAPHICS THAT ARE ROLLED IN AND THE PICTURES FROM THE PERIOD. TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS OF FINDING THOSE IMAGES.
JAMIE: Well, the process is rather intensive. It takes hours. Some of these interviews have taken thirty or forty hours to finish, to go out on the Internet, to find photographs that are symbolic of whatever it is that we’re talking about. Fortunately, a lot of the people we interview brought in shoeboxes full of items they kept, memorabilia and photographs of the time. Jay mentioned Harry McCaffrey: Mark, his son, walked in with boxes and boxes of things Harry had kept, photographs, medals. I tell you what, Harry was a record keeper.
JAY: One of my favorite moments was when we were showing the finished video to Jim Layton and his family. Jamie had gone on the Internet and found a photograph of the New Zealand missionary who rescued Jim and the other 160 sailors from an island that was controlled by the Japanese. And Jim, seeing the missionary’s picture in the video, turned around in the middle of the showing and said, “Where did you get that photograph?!” I thought, “That’s classic.”
YOU’VE MENTIONED JIM. YOU’VE MENTIONED HARRY. WHO ARE THE OTHER VETS YOU’VE INTERVIEWED?
JAMIE: We started with Jim Reagan, and then we had Jim Layton. We had Art Swanburg and Charles Powers. And Bob Bowser.
JAY: And it wasn’t just veterans. We interviewed survivors and family as well: Lee Strehorn, Betty Hill.
JAMIE: There was Milton Bludworth, Cliff McCamey, Mark and Paul McCaffrey for Harry. There was also Jim Cook, Davis Weaver, John Rothermel, Jim Menefee, Dave Hawley, Charlie Carneal, Hazel Wilensky, and Philip Myers. Eighteen in all.
TELL ME ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING ON NOVEMBER 11TH THIS YEAR.
JAMIE: Well, November 11th is show-time! We have a final DVD to produce which will be a highlight reel of all interviews. You can’t call it a “best of” DVD, because each interview tells an important story, all of these people are heroes.
JAY: That’s part of why we undertook this, to preserve their stories, because they are all heroes. Even those who didn’t leave the states but had a mundane job, even those people made sacrifices. They were separated from their families. They had to do things for the service of their country that they might not have wanted to do. Plus, one of the things that I think is a side benefit of this project is providing each family with a video record, a history of that World War II vet. And that has been like “psychic income” for Jamie and me, how delighted people are to have that.
JAMIE: I’ll give you a quote. There was one veteran who came in to watch his video. And he called me later that afternoon, when it was all over, and said, “I just want you to know that for the first time in fifty years I feel important again.” Now that just hit me right in the heart.
WOW. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PRESENT GENERATION CAN LEARN FROM THE GENERATION THAT LIVED THROUGH WORLD WAR II?
JAY: They are very educational. Jamie and I both learned a lot. I am a Vietnam Veteran, and for me it is inspiring to hear some of these folks say, when we ask them why they joined the military, “Well, we all did. We needed to. It was important.” It wasn’t like that with Vietnam. It is nice to be reminded that sometimes things are so important that everyone has to pitch in and help.
I HOPE WE HAVE A LOT OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE ON NOVEMBER 11.
JAY: Yes, and I think what they will learn is that each person has a story and each person made sacrifices. These aren’t like movies. These are stories of real lives and real sacrifices.
JAMIE: One of the things I have learned in this process is how the whole country pulled together. I mean, today we are so divided: politically, religiously; whatever it is there are so many factions. Not during World War II. You talk to these guys and you hear, “We were all together. We were all saving rubber, planting victory gardens, we were all rationing gasoline.” It was all for the benefit of saving this country from the tyranny of Hitler and Mussolini. I think that is what the kids could learn. They might think, “Wow. It would be cool to live in an era where people actually got along.”
JAY: Well, and women played an important role as well as the men. We went into this mainly focusing on the men who were the soldiers and the sailors. But Harry McCaffrey’s sister was similar to “Rosy the Riveter” working on aircraft in the Mid-cities area. Betty Hill was in the Civil Air Patrol, being trained as a pilot. I was clueless to all of that. And this will be an inspiration for people to see that it was not just those who were out there shooting the rifles, but as Jamie just said, everyone was pitching in and helping.
YOU HAD A FORMAT OF QUESTIONS, RIGHT? WHAT WERE YOU TRYING TO CAPTURE IN EACH INTERVIEW?
JAMIE: There were three parts. There was a background section where we asked, “Hey, tell us about your life before you signed up. Who were your parents? Where did you live?” We were trying to provide that human element. Then we went into the second section, which was the War years. That is where we got into the blood and the mud and the crud, as Jay would say. And that was fascinating because some of these guys have circumnavigated the globe. They went to so many places. And then the last part was about faith and St. John’s. We thought this was important since it was a church project. Jay would ask, “How did your time in the military affect your faith,” and then further from there, “Tell us about your involvement at St. John’s.”
JAY: I would ask, “What are your hopes or visions for St. John’s in the future? What have you learned in your life that you could share with us?” And then we would ask some follow-up questions.
JAMIE: Jay got better as we went along. This guy was like Larry King, there, at the end!
JAY: We learned a lot through this process.
JAMIE: And the quality got better as we went along. When we started we had no lights, just a microphone hanging down from the ceiling. Then we thought, “We need to figure this thing out.” That’s when John Bovard came in with his lights to help us. Jay and Craig Schmieder went out and bought an audio system.
WHAT DID MARK KRAEMER DO?
JAMIE: Mark’s job is to produce the maps. I would contact Mark with the maps we needed and he would email them back.
THE MAP GRAPHICS ARE LIKE THE SCENES IN RADERS OF THE LOST ARK WHERE THE RED LINE CROSSES THE GLOBE.
JAMIE: Exactly. That’s what Mark does for us and it makes a big difference. For example, most people have never heard of the Mariana Islands. Once you get out of Texas, you need a map to know what we are talking about.
WHAT ABOUT THE EDITING PROCESS? HOW MUCH DID YOU SHOOT COMPARED TO WHAT YOU ENDED UP USING?
JAMIE: I would say we used 70% of what we shot.
JAY: Jamie is amazing. One of the best parts of this for me has been getting to know Jamie better. I always admire a person who does more than he has to do, who sets a standard of excellence for himself. He did a masterful job editing these videos.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER “BEST PARTS” OF THIS PROJECT?
JAY: It’s hard to say one part was better than another. Each veteran had a story, their story. In one case a veteran had this exciting tale to tell—his ship is torpedoed, it sinks, there are sharks in the water, he’s in the water for seventy-two hours before he is rescued. On the other hand, you have veteran who is a clerk, typing orders on Treasure Island in San Francisco. And I asked him, “Well, you got married at that time, and you’re in the San Francisco area. Wasn’t that fun?” “Well, no,” he said, “I had to work fifteen hours a day! I didn’t have time for fun!” But the story was the story, and we learned that all made sacrifices.
JAMIE: For me, an interview that stands out was the one with Davis Weaver. Davis is a wonderful story teller. He can tell a story that makes you laugh and then makes you tear up. He enjoyed that camera because it gave him the chance to tell his stories about his time in the military. And then Bob Bowser did a great job on the topic “faith and St. John’s.” He spoke eloquently about the future, not only of this place but of Anglicanism in general—very profound stuff that he was sharing with us.
SO THE PLAN IS: NOVEMBER 11, GET THE WHOLE PARISH FAMILY TOGETHER TO WATCH THE INTERVIEWS.
JAMIE: There will be food and lots of it. I am going to keep the highlight reel to two hours, total run time. Hopefully the entire parish will be there, and at the end of the night we can stand up and give these folks a round of applause and appreciate them for what they’ve done.
JAY: This will be meaningful for them. Hopefully, our parishioners will recognize this is a great opportunity to show our appreciation and honor these veterans and their families.
THANK YOU SO MUCH. YOU HAVE DONE A GREAT SERVICE TO THESE FOLKS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND OUR PARISH.
JAMIE: Thank you. It has been a pleasure.
JAY: It’s like so many things, we are two of the primary beneficiaries of all this. Thank you.